Mike and I have never been big on "just" buying stuff for our children. New clothes, shoes, underwear, etc. are purchased on an as needed basis. But then back-to-school 'season' begins, and all of a sudden it seems we're supposed to be purchasing clothing, shoes, and supplies in large masses.
I don't like the attitude that a return to school somehow translates into a child going shopping and chhoosing item after item all in the name of "necessity."
(Been there, done that. Megan starting 2nd grade? Oh boy.)
What works for us?
At the beginning of each summer, the children write down a list of summer goals. Chosen for the most part by themselves, perhaps with a little suggestion and guidance from parents. We suggest they do some from a variety of categories. Social, academic, spiritual, financial, physical, etc.
They look a little like this. These are there summer goal posters from last year, 2012.
Then the back to school shopping begins, sometimes even throughout the summer if we see something we like or on a good sale, we'll pick it up. (lunch box, shirt, etc.) More formal shopping is done on a specific day with a specific child. Mostly we get what the child needs, and it all comes home to mom's closet until the specified time when our family room looks something like this.
2012 back-to-school purchases
Then the Big Boss makes the decisions. (I'm way too easy--and clothes and shoes, even school supplies are a weakness for me.) Mike looks at the purchases, evaluates their goals and sees if they can "purchase" all that is laid out for them with their goal results. (Obviously when I am shopping with them, I know where they are at on their goal posters, and we have limits of what we will buy.)
Sometimes the child is able to scoop up all their belongings and rightfully claim them as their own. Other times, a few items are held back until a little more effort or results happen, and sometimes, they strike a bargain, and right then and there "buy" something with some good old fashioned push-ups.
(actually I think he was proving to Mike that he really could do the number of push-ups he had set a goal to be able to do)
Despite getting out of school later than usual this year, summer crept up on us a little quickly. Actually, I think it was our trip to CA that threw us off. Although we asked our children in advance to start thinking about their goal ideas, we haven't gotten around to the posters yet. Usually we do the goal posters the Sunday before school gets out, and we were gone this year. I'm sure you can guess what we will be doing tonight as a family, gathered around the kitchen table.
Markers, poster boards, stickers, and brainstorming will be in abundance.
And even though there are always a few eye rolls, huffs, and moments of bad attitudes throughout the summer goal experiences, it really is quite rewarding to see the children's sense of accomplishment and pride as they "purchase" their new stuff with a poster board.
Works for us.